Marriage Advice: What I’ve Learned About Marriage by Sara Wilson, the Editor of Huffington Post Divorce

I came across this article on huffington post written by Sara Wilson and found it to be a good read and thought to share it with my followers.

What I’ve learnt about marriage

Two and a half years ago, I embarked on a crash course in marital dissolution. As editor of Huffington Post Divorce, I immersed myself in the full spectrum of turmoil — psychological, physical, financial, spiritual — that comes with ending a marriage. I spent my days reading hundreds of blogs by our roster of experts (lawyers, psychologists, financial planners, and divorcees among them), writing stories on the latest divorce-related news and trends, combing through thousands of tweets and comments, and sharing my expertise on the subject at divorce conferences (yes, there are such things). While I haven’t been married or divorced myself, I’m a child of divorce (and therefore have a lot of opinions on the subject), and what makes certain marriages endure and others implode is a topic with which I’ve long been obsessed. Then, a year and a half ago, I became the editor of Huffington Post Weddings and spent over a year examining relationships from the other side, which turned out to be just as fascinating and complex and only enhanced my (intellectual, if not experiential) understanding of relationships. So what has this expertise given me — aside from enough cocktail party conversation to last a lifetime? As I move on to my next role at the Huffington Post overseeing special projects, I thought I’d share some of the most helpful nuggets of wisdom I’ve accumulated from my time in the trenches.

1. Talk about money before you get hitched.

Finances are among the biggest stressors in most marriages and a leading cause of divorce. Why? Because like it or not, how we spend money is deeply reflective of our personal values, beliefs and goals, so if couples have conflicting spending philosophies, they’ll inevitably encounter problems. High-profile divorce attorney Laura Wasser knows this better than most. Her advice resonated with me: in order to avoid the fate of her A-list Hollywood clients like Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, and Kiefer Sutherland, sit down together and map out every detail of your future lives together, even the most quotidian. (Will you rough it or stay at 5-star resorts on vacation? Will weekend entertainment consist of tasting menus at the hottest new restaurants or Netflix and take-out on the couch? Will your future kids go to private or public school?) This may be a painfully un-romantic exercise, but it will ensure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to financial expectations — or whether the differences you do have are deal-breakers.

2. The trait that initially endeared you to your partner may end up annoying the hell out of you.

Her vivaciousness is what first attracted you to her; now you roll your eyes at her loud-talking ways. His sweet gestures once made your knees weak; now you think they’re suffocating. Some version of this plays out in more or less every long-term relationship, to a lesser or greater degree. Before you settle down with someone, ask yourself: Are these irritants ones you can live with for the long haul?

3. Drop out of the workforce after you get married at your peril.

All the chatter these days about women “Leaning In” and “Opting Out” obscures a critical fact: leaving work for an extended period of time is a pretty risky proposition in the face of the sobering statistic that around 50 percent of marriages (still) end in divorce. Because women are usually the ones to leave the workforce after having kids, we often find ourselves at most risk if the relationship implodes. This isn’t a value judgment about deciding to stay home and raise children. If you choose this path, just make sure you have a solid backup plan if the worst happens — like having your own financial resources to draw upon if you can’t immediately return to the workforce full time.

4. Who you choose to marry is one of life’s most important decisions — and it’s extremely easy to mess the decision up.

I always considered this a grating platitude until I heard it from Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of the online dating site I figured someone so pro-marriage — I mean, the guy is a Christian theologian who founded a multi-million-dollar website for the sole purpose of helping heterosexual couples get hitched — might be a little more laid-back about the whole enterprise, as long as “I do” remained the endgame. But according to Warren, it’s “frighteningly easy to choose the wrong person” because attraction and chemistry are often mistaken for love. It’s the reason so many people rush into marriage or remarry. But if spouses are ill-suited, all the chemistry in the world doesn’t matter. So slow down and embrace the daunting but not impossible challenge of finding the right person for you.

5. Unorthodox arrangements can work.

We have a somewhat narrow idea of how marriage should look, which hasn’t evolved much since “Leave It to Beaver.” So to those couples who reinvent the form, I say, Bravo. One example of this: “living apart together” wherein committed pairs maintain separate homes by choice, like this South Florida couple, who keep ever-so-stylish his-and-hers adjacent bungalows. Bottom line: as long as you’re not hurting anyone, go ahead and design a marriage that works for you.

6. If a marriage looks perfect, it probably isn’t.

It’s not just Al and Tipper Gore-caliber breakups that incite cries of “but-they-seemed-so-perfect together!” It is often the case that the more flawless things look on the outside, the more dysfunctional things actually are. Perhaps the most poignant example of this was relationship expert Sharyn Wolf’s confession that while she repeatedly doled out advice about how to have a happy marriage and satisfying love life on “The Oprah Show,” her own marriage was coming apart. “I was lying to myself,” wrote Wolf in a follow-up piece that showed even marriage counselors feel the need to keep up appearances. “I kept thinking if I could only change a few things, the marriage would work.” Wolf left her husband three years later.

7. Even if you say “divorce is not an option for us,” divorce is always an option.

I hear this frequently from twentysomethings (and not just Lady Gaga). Maybe it’s because they don’t want to mess up their own marriages like many of their parents did. Maybe it’s because they possess the arrogance of youth and think bad things can’t happen to them. Maybe it’s because they think if they utter this statement enough times, it’ll actually be true. But the fact remains that unless you live in the Philippines or Vatican City — the only two places in the world where divorce is actually illegal — it’s always an option. I see this as a good thing; my theory is that when divorce is an option, it forces couples to work harder to stave off complacency.

8. If you feel something is amiss in your relationship, it probably is.

Most of us have pretty good instincts. We’re just not always good at acting on them. But I learned about the importance of trusting your gut from one author who wrote a blog post drawing on research she had conducted for her book, How Not To Marry The Wrong Guy, in which she found that 30 percent of divorced women knew they definitely shouldn’t be getting married while they walked down the aisle. The lesson: don’t sweep nagging feelings of doubt (or nagging feelings of any kind) aside.

9. Even though it seems like everyone else is married, they’re not.

We’re in the midst of a major demographic shift in this country: for the first time, married couples are not in the majority. As a nation, we’re reinventing what “family” looks like and those new definitions don’t always include marriage. To cite just a few examples: there are now almost 1 million same-sex households and over 12 million single parent families in the U.S., cohabitating couples are on the rise and single households increased by 30 percent worldwide from 2001 to 2011. So relax — if you’re not married, you’re definitely not alone.

10. If you express contempt for your spouse, your marriage is basically screwed.

Psychologist John Gottman has spent almost four decades studying couples up close in his Relationship Research Institute (a.k.a “Love Lab”) in Seattle. According to Gottman, there are a handful of negative actions that can spell doom for relationships, but the one that stuck with me most is contempt, which can be demonstrated through behavior, tone, and words. Wondering what qualifies as contempt? This fascinating footage of couples fighting in the Love Lab should offer some clarity.

11. Total honesty with your spouse is overrated.

It’s not exactly news that we’re living in an age of extreme over-sharing (can you wait one sec while I Instagram my breakfast?). This extends to relationships, where we’re encouraged to aspire to “transparency” and “communication” at all times in the name of stronger, better bonds. Yes, those things are fundamental to the success of any marriage, but marital intimacy doesn’t — and shouldn’t — mean complete honesty. Read: your spouse need not know what you’re thinking and doing at all times, or every sordid detail from your past. Psychologist Cecilia d’Felice, who is quoted here, says it best: “If it serves no purpose to tell the truth other than to assuage your guilt, offload your problems or hurt your partner, there may be times when an untruth will serve your relationship better.”

12. It’s completely fine to go to bed angry.

Contrary to popular wisdom, not every spousal tiff needs to be wrapped up in a neat bow by lights out. You have your entire lives together to talk things through and resolve issues both big and small (even Psychology Today agrees with me on this one). Now stop staying up all night hashing it out and get some sleep.

13. Cultivate a rich and full life outside the marriage.

The “soul mate” model of marriage — wherein your spouse is supposed to fulfill every last one of your physical, mental, and spiritual desires — is actually a fairly recent concept in the history of marriage. While it’s a nice idea, it’s a deeply flawed ideal that sets up an impossible standard and puts undue pressure on you both. Bottom line: one person (even the seemingly perfect person with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life) can’t possibly satisfy your every need. So do something to cultivate passion and purpose outside the marriage. Go on girls’ trips. Join a Lean In circle. Start a bowling league for goodness’ sake. Your marriage will be stronger for it.

14. You will probably want to flee your marriage or strangle your spouse sometimes, and that’s OK.

We all know marriage isn’t a cakewalk. But what most of us don’t know — or perhaps don’t like to admit — is just how common it is to actually despise your significant other and frequently think about leaving, even if you’re madly in love. Author Iris Krasnow, who has been married for over 25 years, was the first to alert me to the “eggshell thin line that separates loving from loathing.” She writes it best in her book The Secret Lives of Wives, culled from interviews with hundreds of married couples: “My biggest shock is how many outwardly cheerful women who have been married forever think about divorce if not weekly, at least once a month.” As long as you’re not consumed by these desires, they’re not cause for shame or great alarm. Indeed, they’re a fact of married life.

15. You may fantasize about someone you encounter on social media. Don’t act on it.

The statistic I encountered a zillion times that “1 in 5 American divorces now involve Facebook” is dubious, but it does speak to the prevalence (okay, dominance) of Facebook and other social networking sites today, and the ease with which they put other (seemingly better, hotter) offerings tantalizingly within our reach. It’s totally fine to imagine what might happen if you reached out to an old flame or fetching friend-of-a-friend who pops up on your newsfeed, but do yourself (and your partner) a favor and avoid actually doing it, or you may end up in dangerous waters.

16. Infidelity is never black and white.

Everyone has an opinion about marital infidelity, and it’s usually binary: the spouse who cheated is the so-called perpetrator, the spouse who was cheated on is the so-called victim. But the reality is that cheating — and what it means for marriage — is far more complex than that. As therapist Tammy Nelson argues, perhaps it’s time to revisit the concept of monogamy itself, which is under more pressure than ever, what with opportunities to cheat just a mouse click away and ever-increasing lifespans that mean, if couples wed in their 30s, they’re vowing to love, honor, and get busy with only each other for over half a century. If we can admit that most of us are stumped about how to handle monogamy, maybe we can begin to have a conversation that is as complex as infidelity itself.

17. Keep having sex at all costs.

We’ve all heard of sexless marriages. Of course they exist; maybe you’re even in one. But they’re not inevitable. Or so says psychologist Esther Perel, who brilliantly assesses why sex often fades in long-term relationships, even when everyday intimacy between partners is good. According to Perel, the very qualities we privilege in marriage (security, stability) are the same qualities that flatline erotic desire. Doing things to keep the heat in your marriage — taking time apart, flirting, sharing fantasies — can be antidotes that can help keep your marriage intact. And since couples who have a lot of sex report that they have happier marriages, perhaps it’s worth the effort.

18. You have to be married to your marriage as much as you are married to your spouse.

When couples vow “till death do us part,” they’re pledging to “love, honor and cherish” each other. But if they don’t pledge the same allegiance to the actual union, which inevitably requires compromise, then the marriage may run into serious trouble down the road. Blogger Vicki Larson’s analysis of a fascinating UCLA study on what it takes to maintain marital commitment is a potent reminder of this subtle-but-important distinction. If you don’t want to read the study, just watch an episode of NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”; if there’s a more realistic depiction of this type of commitment than Coach Eric and Tami Taylor’s, I haven’t seen it.


The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You

The acceptance prophecy states that when we think other people are going to like us, we behave more warmly towards them and consequently they like us more. When we think other people aren’t going to like us, we behave more coldly and they don’t like us as much.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because if we predict acceptance we get it, if not we don’t. It’s also an intuitively appealing explanation for how people come to like (or dislike) each other. But the question for psychologists is whether it is really true or just a neat fairy story.

The waters are, of course, muddied by all the usual individual and cultural differences—some people care more about other’s acceptance and some people are naturally more accepting—but let’s set those aside for a moment and just imagine two people who are identical except that one expects others to accept her and one expects others to reject her.

What the research has found is that one part of the acceptance prophecy has strong evidence to support it, while the other part does not. Until now.

The first part, in a model put forward by Dr Danu Anthony Stinson at the University of Waterloo and colleagues, is that the interpersonal warmth people project predicts how much others like them (Stinson et al., 2009). For psychologists this is uncontroversial; people take better to others who are genuinely warm with accurate judgements about their warmth made in only 30 seconds (Ambady et al., 2000).

Pleased to meet you

What has proved more controversial is whether anticipating acceptance really does increase the interpersonal warmth that people project towards others. It’s this question that Stinson et al. (2009) set out to test by manipulated people’s expectations about a person they were about to meet for the first time.

They told 14 of 28 men recruited for their study that the attractive woman they were going to meet was nervous and worried about how she would be perceived by them. Quite naturally when these men found that the woman was nervous and insecure it made them feel better in comparison. This had the effect of making the men much less anxious about the interaction (actually about half as nervous as judged by independent observers) and consequently much warmer.

In comparison the other 14 sweaty-palmed participants were only given basic demographic information about the woman they were going to talk to, nothing that would calm their fears of rejection. This manipulation created two groups, then, one that was anticipating acceptance more than the other.

What the results showed was that when the risk of rejection was lower, men acted more warmly towards the woman to whom they were talking. This extra warmth also lead to a panel of observers liking them more in comparison with those who were more fearful of risk and therefore interpersonally colder.

So this provides evidence that the acceptance prophecy holds true. In this experiment people who expected to be accepted did act more warmly towards a stranger and consequently they were perceived as more likeable.

Social optimist or pessimist?

There was an exception, though, to the results of this study. One sub-group were not affected by the experimental manipulation to increase how much they expected to be accepted. That’s because they already expected to be accepted. These are the social optimists (or at least people who think rather a lot of themselves!).

Social optimists, of course, are in the happy position of expecting to be accepted and finding that, generally speaking, they are. Social pessimists, though, face the dark side of what sociologist Robert K. Merton—who coined the expression ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’—has called a ‘reign of error’. Expectation of rejection leads to the projection of colder, more defensive behaviour towards others, and this leads to actual rejection.

Relationship Killers: Emotional Immaturity, Selfishness and Instant Gratification

Emotional maturity is something some folks never accomplish, no matter how many years they live. Immaturity, self-centered behavior, and the desire for instant gratification are three of the reasons why marriages fail. All of these behaviors combined with the attitude of “if it does not work out, we will just go our separate ways” contribute to a high divorce rate.

What is emotional immaturity? Some people live by the maxim, “I may grow old, but I refuse to grow up.” This may be humorous when seen on a T-shirt, but when people take this attitude into their marriages, they are setting themselves and their relationship up for misery. This does not mean that you have to be serious all the time; far from it. It just means that you cannot allow your emotions to rule you and to affect how you behave toward your spouse.

Being self-centered or selfish is all about the “me first” attitude. “My needs are more important than yours” is the rally cry of the self-centered person. A self-centered person tends to criticize and blame rather than looking at her/his own behavior. A self-centered person sees nothing wrong with manipulating her spouse to get her way. A self-centered person thinks nothing of putting his family in danger by drinking and driving.

What about instant gratification? For some people, if everything is not perfect and to their liking, they tend to resort to complaints about their marriage. They think of their marriage like fast food instead of fine dining. They want a ‘quick fix’. It becomes a disposable commodity instead of something to be treasured and enjoyed if the relationship is not going in the direction they have envisioned.

Like they said, ‘nothing good comes easy’. Marriage inclusive. Our relationships requires maintenance to make it successful. It will require extra work if you are engaging in these damaging behaviors. The good news is that you, too, can create a happier marriage if you are willing to begin with yourself. You have to be willing to put in the time and energy required to help your marriage become a strong one. But it all starts with you. Personal responsibility is the key. As you work on yourself, you are bound to see changes in your relationship. You must learn to look past your spouse’s shortcomings and accept him/her the way he/she is, because your acceptance of him will definitely produce a change in you first of all and ultimately, in him/her.

This is not going to be a ‘piece of cake’, but it is possible. And in an instance where you think this is too much for you, you may seek help from relationship counselors.

Let everything you do be directed towards the success of your marriage.

I left the love of my life because I thought I could do better. Now I’m childless and alone at 42 By KAREN CROSS

I saw this story on dailymail and thought it was a good read with a timeless lesson for all women out there, both the married and the unmarried. It is the story of a woman who left a secured relationship because she thought she needed more than what she was getting.
Pls read and enjoy.

Laughing and dancing with my fiance at our engagement party, I thought I might actually burst with happiness.

Surrounded by our family and friends, I looked at Matthew and felt certain I had met the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with.

Quite simply, he was my soulmate.

We were desperately in love and had our future life together mapped out.

First we  would save to buy our own home, then would come a romantic wedding ceremony and children would follow.

 So why, 20 years later, do I find myself  single, childless and tormented by the fact that I have thrown away the only true chance of happiness I ever had?

Eight years after that wonderful engagement party in 1989, I walked away from dear, devoted, loyal Matthew, convinced that somewhere out there, a better, more exciting, more fulfilling life awaited me.
Only there wasn’t.

Now I am 42 and have all the trappings of success – a high-flying career, financial security and a home in the heart of London’s trendy Notting Hill. But I don’t have the one thing I crave more than anything: a loving husband and family.

‘My father warned me not to throw this love away. But I was sure I’d find Mr Perfect around the corner’
You see, I never did find another man who offered everything Matthew did, who understood me and loved me like he did. Someone who was my best friend as well as my lover.

Today, seeing friends with their children around them tortures me, as I know I am unlikely ever to have a family of my own. I think about the times Matthew and I talked about having children, even discussing the names we would choose. I cannot believe I turned my back on so much happiness.
Instead, here I am back on the singles market, looking for the very thing I discarded with barely a backward glance all those years ago.

I know I can’t have Matthew back, and it hurts when I hear snippets of information about his life and how content he is. Fifteen years after I ended our relationship, he is happily married.

At this time of year, so many people will be assessing their lives and relationships, wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. Many will mistake contentment for boredom, forgetting to cherish the good things they have. I would urge those who are considering walking away from such riches to think again.

How different things would be for me now if only I’d listened to Matthew when he pleaded with me not to leave him in 1997, tears pouring down his face. I was crying too, and it tortured me to watch the heart of the man I loved breaking in front of me. But I was resolute.

‘One day I might look back and realise  I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life,’ I told him as we clung to each other desperately. How prophetic those words have proven to be.

‘I will always be here for you,’ Matthew promised. And I, arrogantly, thought that somehow I could put him on ice and return to him.

Matthew and I met when we attended the same comprehensive school in Essex. We started dating just before Christmas 1987 when I was 17 and studying for my A-levels. By that time he had left school and was working as a motorcycle courier.

We got on like a house on fire, and our  families each supported the relationship. Before long, we had fallen in love. Matthew was romantic but incredibly practical, something that would later come to annoy me. His gifts to me that Christmas were a leather jacket – and a pair of thermal leggings.

Two weeks later, when we’d been seeing each other for less than a month, he proposed. We were in my little Mini Clubman when he shouted at me to stop the car. Scared something was wrong, I braked in the middle of traffic and we both jumped out.

Then, oblivious to the other drivers beeping their horns, he got down on one knee in the middle of the road. ‘I love you, Karen Cross,’ he said. ‘Promise you’ll marry me one day.’ I laughed and said yes, thrilled that he felt the same way that I did.

In the summer of 1989, while out for a romantic meal, Matthew proposed properly with a diamond solitaire ring. Two months later, we held our engagement party for 40 friends and family at the little house we were renting at the time.

The following year, we bought a tiny starter home in Grays, Essex, which we moved into with furniture we had begged, borrowed and stolen. We giggled with delight at the thought of this grown-up new life.
I was in my first junior role at a women’s magazine and Matthew worked fitting tyres and exhausts, so our combined salaries of around £15,000 a year meant we struggled to make the mortgage payments. But we didn’t care, telling ourselves that it wouldn’t be long before we were earning more and able to afford weekly treats and a bigger home where we could bring up the babies we had planned.

But then, the housing market crashed and we were plunged into negative equity.

Struggling should have brought us closer together, and at first it did. But as time went on, and my magazine career – and salary – advanced, I started to resent Matthew as he drifted from one dead-end job to another.

I still loved him, but I began to feel embarrassed by his blue-collar jobs, annoyed that, despite his intelligence, he didn’t have a career. Then he bought a lurid blue and pink VW  Beetle.

Why couldn’t he drive a normal car? Things that now seem incredibly insignificant began to niggle.

I began to wish he was more sophisticated and earned more. I felt envious of friends with better-off partners, who were able to support them as they started their families.

I stopped seeing Matthew as my equal. I stopped seeing all the qualities that had made me fall in love with him – his fierce intelligence, our shared sense of humour, his determination not to follow the crowd. Instead, I saw someone who was holding me back.

‘I hated the fact Matthew was suddenly putting another woman before me. How dare she come between us! Over the next few weeks, I’m ashamed to say I vented my spleen at both of them in a series of heated phone calls’
I encouraged him to find a career and was thrilled when he was accepted to join the police in 1995. It should have heralded a new chapter in our lives, but it only hastened the end. We went from spending every evening and weekend together, to hardly seeing one another. Matthew was doing round-the-clock shifts, while I worked long hours on the launch of a new magazine.

Our sex life had dwindled and nights out together were rare. I stopped appreciating little things he did, like leaving romantic notes on the pillow or scouring secondhand bookshops for novels he knew I’d love. He was my best friend, yet I took him totally for granted.

After festering for weeks about his shortcomings, I told Matthew I was leaving. We spent hours talking and crying as he tried to convince me to stay, but I was adamant.

My parents were horrified that I was walking away from a man they felt was right for me. My father’s words to me that day continue to haunt me. ‘Karen, think carefully about what you’re doing. There’s a lot to be said for someone who truly loves you.’

‘It’s been 11 years since Matthew and I last spoke, I have to accept that door has closed’ (posed by model)

But, I refused to listen, convinced there would be another, better Mr Right waiting around the corner.

I moved into a rented flat a few miles away in Hornchurch, Essex, and embraced single life with a vengeance. By now I was an editor on a national magazine. Life was one long round of premieres and dinner or drinks parties.

Matthew and I remained close, even telling each other about new relationships. But though I’d dumped him, I never felt the women he met were good enough. I can see now I was acting out of jealousy. I clearly wanted to keep him for myself.

Our closeness was, however, called to a halt in 2000 when he met his first serious girlfriend after me, Sara.

One night shortly after his 34th birthday, I phoned to ask his advice about something.

Matthew was unusually abrupt and asked me not to call him again. ‘Please don’t send me birthday or Christmas cards any more either. Sara opened your card last week and was really upset. I have to put her feelings first.’

I hated the fact Matthew was suddenly putting another woman before me. How dare she come between us! Over the next few weeks, I’m ashamed to say I vented my spleen at both of them in a series of heated phone calls.

I was completely irrational. I didn’t want Matthew back, but felt upstaged by Sara. 

Unsurprisingly, after one particularly nasty argument, Matthew put the phone down and refused to take any more of my calls. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I would never speak to him again.

Shortly afterwards, I met Richard. It was a whirlwind romance, and within a year we were engaged and buying an idyllic farmhouse in the Norfolk countryside while I continued my journalistic career, commuting to London.

He was a successful singer and, as we toured the country, I thought I had finally found the excitement and love that I craved.

But Matthew was never far from my thoughts, and Richard complained that I often brought him into conversations, even comparing them both.

They were so different. Although outwardly romantic, Richard was repeatedly unfaithful, and I never felt secure enough to start a family with him. Eventually, after three-and-a-half years together, he walked out, having admitted his latest paramour was pregnant by him.

My life fell apart. Over the next year, I struggled to pull myself back together and did a lot of soul-searching. I finally understood what my father had meant. I realised Matthew was the only person who had loved and understood me.

When I heard through a mutual friend that he had split up with Sara, I wrote to him, apologising and asking for forgiveness – and a second chance. It was six years since we had last spoken, but naively I thought he would want to hear from me.

What I didn’t know was that Sara was still living at the house and it was she who opened my very personal letter. It included my phone number, and she left me several angry, hurtful. voicemails.

Yet again, I had inadvertently caused problems in Matthew’s life, so it was unsurprising I never heard from him, despite writing several times over the next few months. In the end, I left it at birthday and Christmas cards, thinking he’d find a way to get in touch if he ever changed his mind.

Then, I heard a couple of years ago Matthew had married his new partner, Nicola. For a few moments I couldn’t breathe, then the tears came.

Matthew and Nicola still live in Essex and, as far as I know, don’t yet have children. That’s the next milestone I truly dread.

It’s been 11 years since Matthew and I last spoke, and I have to accept that door has closed.

Perhaps he has found what  he is looking for and I am a distant memory.

I have had one other  significant relationship since Richard – with Rob – but that recently ended after four years. Rob reminded me a lot of Matthew. He was decent and honourable, the life and soul of the party but with a kind and sensitive side.

But we were each too jaded by previous heartbreak to make it work. And while I wanted children, he had a grown-up son and didn’t want to start over again.
So once again I am on my own, my mind full of ‘if-onlys’. If only I’d stayed with Matthew, we’d almost certainly be married with children.

Or, maybe Matthew wasn’t the right man. I will never know  the answer, but my decision to leave him has definitely cost me the chance of ever becoming a mother.

Now I can only look back and admonish my selfish, younger self. When I visit friends and family back in our home town, I can’t help but hope I’ll bump into  Matthew.

I’d like to think I’d say sorry. That I will always be there for him. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned his back on me and kept walking.

To those out there thinking of walking away from humdrum relationships, I would say don’t mistake contentment for unhappiness, as I did. It could be a choice you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

Karen stopped appreciating little things he did, like leaving romantic notes on the pillow

Karen stopped appreciating little things he did, like leaving romantic notes on the pillow